2 Turku Joins the Computer Era

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2.1 Start of the Computer Era in Turku

1959 (Partly compiled from Turun Matematiikkakoneyhdistys, Toimintakertomus v:lta 1959)

In 1959 activities for acquiring a "mathematics machine" to Turku took place. One of the initiators was the Associate Professor in Physics at Turun Yliopisto (TY) Kalervo V. Laurikainen. He was engaged in extensive numerical nuclear physics calculations during his stay with Prof. Lars Hulthén at Lund University in the middle of 1950. These calculations eventually lead hin to the use of computers [Laurikainen 1982]. Back in Turku in 1956 IBM offered him the chance to use 2h on their IBM 650 in Paris. The computations were made by Laurikainen's student Olli Varho (later CEO of IBM, Finland), who thus became the first Finnish programmer. Laurikainen together with Physics Prof. Carl-Gustav Fogel (ÅA) started activities to accuire a computer for the universities in Turku. (Laurikainen: Fyysikon Tie, Hyvinkään Kirjapaino, 1982)

The activities included the first ever course on computers: "On Electronic Computing Machines" held in Spring 1959 at TY by O. Varho, who for a time also was the secretary of the Mathematics Committee in charge of the ESKO project. Because the number of participants indicated that the interest in electronic computers was rather large, Laurikainen at the end of the course stated that it was possibly worthwhile investigate the possibilities to acquire such a machine to Turku.

After an initial discussion meeting a working group consisting of the professors K. Inkeri (TY), K.G. Fogel, Laurikainen, and the engineer A. Rantanen (Huhtamäki) was elected. FM R. Räisänen from the Town of Turku was asked to work as secretary. As a result of the work of this group on June 8, a meeting (Kallelse) attended by 43 persons was held to form a society in Turku with the purpose to find out the need and the possibility to acquire a mathematics machine (similar to the initiative in Sweden and Helsinki). At this meeting the following organizations were conditionally entering as members: Turun Yliopisto, Åbo Akademi, Pargas Kalkbergs AB, Neste Oy, Turun Kaupunki, Kaupunkien Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö, Livförsäkringsaktiebolaget Verdandi, and Huhtamäki-yhtymä Oy with the working group chosen as preliminary board.

On the same day, Laurikainen and K.A. Inkeri sent a letter to the budget authorities of TY asking to reserve funds for a membership fee for the Society to be funded: "Today it has been decided to found a society named The Mathematics Machine Society of Turku (Turun Matematiikkakoneyhdistys - Åbo Matematik-maskinförening). Its purpose is to find out the need and working conditions of an electronic computing machine in Turku. ...". An enquiry was sent to prospective users in July signed by the ÅA professor in math. Gunnar af Hellström.

On July 27 the preliminary board was enlarged to also contain the engineers B. Nikander (Pargas K.), L. Tossavainen (Neste Oy), and P Kaarnisto (Keskinäinen Vakuutusyhtiö Sampo). During the summer the board produced a plan for a computing center based on IBM 650.